Peter Hoskin

Cameron and Clegg play the expectations game

Cameron and Clegg play the expectations game
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You know the drill by know: a Cameron and Clegg joint press-conference, so plenty of easy bonhomie and political japery. And today was no different. The Lib Dem leader set the tone with his opening gag, aimed at Vince Cable: "I haven't seen as many journalists in one room since my constituency surgery." After that, it was pretty much a gag a minute.

Underneath all that, though, was some serious business. Cable came up ("very apologetic," apparently), along with his claims about Winter Fuel Allowance ("not true"). But, as Iain Martin has noted, the most intriguing moment was when Cameron claimed only that he "expects" the Tories and Lib Dems to fight as separate parties at the next election. Obviously, that falls some way short of a guarantee that they will.

George Osborne also deployed the word "expects" in his recent interview with The Spectator – so perhaps this is now Downing Street's official formulation for dealing with questions about the future of the coalition. In any case, it is hardly going to reassure those Tories and Lib Dems who would rather fight on what separates the two parties, rather than what unites them.